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date: 20 February 2020


A Dictionary of Sports Studies

Alan Tomlinson

Refers to the biological adaptations that take place in the body in response to extremes of pressure, heat, and cold. The body adapts acutely and chronically. The extent of the adaptation depends on the environmental factor involved and the level of exposure. An acute adaptation, for example, would be peripheral vasodilatation in response to a hot environment. The response is rapid, a matter of seconds or minutes, and the increased flow of blood close to the body surface allows an increased heat loss. An example of a chronic adaptation would be the increase in the number of red blood cells on exposure to high altitude. This increases the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood in response to the lowered partial pressure of oxygen in the atmosphere. The response takes many weeks to be fully complete. Adaptations are greatest in response to altitude and heat. The human is only weakly adaptable to the cold and shows no adaptation to high pressures such as those experienced in underwater diving. Combined environmental stress, such as exercising in hot and humid environments, can be particularly challenging and fatalities can occur. Wherever possible, simple behavioural adjustments are the primary means to avoid environmental stress, such as clothing or indoor air-conditioning.... ...

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